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Hillary Clinton Talks AIPAC, NATO, Terror Attacks; Kasich Reacts to Brussels Terror Attack; Peter King Talks Belgian Terror Attacks, Security; Should Intelligence Community World about Airports as Soft Targets. Aired 1:30-2p ET
Aired March 22, 2016 - 13:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:30:00] HILLARY CLINTON, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: We want them to be a part of our protecting the United States. The same goes for Europe. So, you know, I think these debates about semantics really miss the point. I was involved in the most important counterterrorism effort of the last eight years and making a decision whether or not to go after bin laden. I think I understand the stakes. I have think I understand that we will be more effective in defeating radical Jihadism and defeating ISIS and the other ISIS terrorism groups if we have coalitions with nations that are predominantly Muslim. I don't think that you get that cooperation that I'm looking for deep, intense, long-lasting cooperation by playing these semantic games. Let's work at preventing the terrorists and isolate them from the vast majority of Muslims and defeat them and do whatever we can to protect America, Europe, and our other friends and partners around the world.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Yesterday, when you addressed AIPAC committee. You were critical about Donald Trump, the Republican presidential front runner. I spoke to him after your speech. This is what he said to me about you.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & CEO, TRUMP ORGANIZATION: Look where she got us. Look at Libya. Look at the migration. Look at Benghazi. Here's a woman that's talk. She's just reading it off a teleprompter. All she does -- believe me, they write that for her.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: He also said you have very low energy and don't have the stamina to be president of the United States. You want to respond to Mr. Trump?
CLINTON: No, I really don't. I don't want to respond to his constant stream of insults. I find it really, at this point absurd. Let me talk about what I will do, what I have done, and what kind of commander-in-chief I will be. Because I think that's what is at stake in this election. We need steady, strong, smart minds and hands in the White House and the situation room to deal with the problems that we face around the world. On the first day, January 20th, 2017, a new president will be in the Oval Office. We can't sit here today and predict all of the challenges and threats that will face that new president, but we know we have to be both vigilant and effective in fighting terrorism. I believe I have the track record, the experience and the temperament to do just that.
BLITZER: As you know, NATO is headquartered outside of Brussels, could have been a target, as far as we know. Yesterday, Trump said the U.S. should decrease spending on NATO. What role do you see NATO specifically, Madam Secretary? You and I have met at NATO headquarters on a few occasions. What role would you see NATO playing, as an organization, in this war against ISIS? So far, they have not been, as an organization, involved.
CLINTON: Look, I'm a very strong supporter of NATO. It's the best international defense alliance I think ever. We have to keep adjusting and changing its mission to meet the new threats that we, as members of NATO, face. I think it would be a grave error to walk away from Europe, to walk away from NATO, to turn our backs on countries with whom we have a long history and shared values, and frankly, who we need to be working closely with as we combat and defeat ISIS and other terrorist threats. I think NATO has a role to play. I would certainly, as president and commander-in-chief, be looking to define that role to make sure that the capacities, the tools and assets that NATO has are at the disposal of member nations, like Belgium during this, you know, terrible event that they are experiencing. And then let's see what more we can do. How do we form the defense relationship with other nations like we did in Libya? You know, people talk about Libya, they forget what Gadhafi was threatening. They also forget we put together a coalition between NATO and the Arab League. The United States did not lose a single person in that effort. We did depose a very threatening presence, who I think would be creating a situation much more akin to Syria, where we have seen Assad, supported by Iran and Russia, wreak havoc in his own country and be the source of a lot of difficulties of terrorists taking over territory of million of refugees fleeing. You have to look at each of these and have a historic context and an understanding. And I'm a supporter of NATO. I want to make sure it is modernized and does its part in defeating the enemies of today not just yesterday.
BLITZER: I know you have to run. One final, quick question. On a day like today, when we see this horrific terror attack in Belgium, and a lot of wonderful people were killed, hundreds were injured. You were the United States Senator from New York State on 9/11. You see what is happening in Belgium right now. This hits home to you. It gets very personal, doesn't it?
[13:35:11] CLINTON: Yes, it is. It's incredibly personal. You know, I think our response after 9/11, from everyone, regardless of party or partisanship, united our country. We made some changes that we had to make in our laws and in our law enforcement practices, our intelligence. It is easy for people looking back to say, oh, well, maybe you didn't need to do that at the time I was in support of what we did do. We have staved off another attack of that magnitude. That was just unthinkable that it would ever happen to us again. We still have lone wolves. We have radicalized terrorists, like we saw in San Bernardino. So we have to remain alert and vigilant. I am focused as I can be to make sure we keep America safe and work with friends and allies to help keep them safe because together we will defeat the terrorist threat. That, to me, is our highest priority going forward.
BLITZER: Madam Secretary, thank you for joining us.
CLINTON: Thank you very much, Wolf.
BLITZER: Republican presidential candidate, Governor John Kasich, spoke out moments ago. He was critical of President Obama for his response to the attacks in Brussels. He said the president should cut short his trip to Cuba, most certainly scrap plans to attend the baseball game in Havana today. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KASICH, (R), OHIO GOVERNOR & PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm a little surprised that the president is going to a baseball game when I believe he should -- if I were president, I would have cut short my visit. I would have flown home. I would have conducted calls jointly with heads of state, and begun to assemble teams of people, intelligence experts who can take a look at these serious breaches that we have in intelligence. I would also involve our friends in the Arab community who know that radical Islam is also intent on destroying and threatening them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Take a look at this new photo obtained by the man wanted in connection with the Brussels terror attack at the airport. You can see a suitcase on the luggage rack. We will get more analysis of what you are seeing right there, the latest information.
Also this, we will speak live to Congressman King, of the House Intelligence and Homeland Security Committees, and talk about what U.S. Intelligence has learned about these terror attacks, what the U.S. should be doing right now. Much more with Peter King after this.
[13:41:10] BLITZER: Here's the latest on the terror attacks in Belgium. The first at an airport this morning and, an hour later, another at a subway station in Brussels.
Police have now released security camera footage and are looking for man in connection with the attack. The death toll is at least 30 people now confirmed dead in the bombings at the airport and the subway station. 230 more injured. Those numbers could clearly go up.
One eyewitness at the airport described what happened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED WITNESS: I heard an explosion. All the ceiling is going down. I just go under the sink and the second explosion went and everything is black.
UNIDENTIFIED WITNESS (voice-over): The second explosion was there, which was, in my eyes, much more powerful than the first one, which blew out windows and full of smoke and there was some panic. People were on the floor and injured. It was quite a mess.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: ISIS is publicly claiming responsibility for the latest terror attacks in Belgium.
Cities across the United States right now are taking security precautions following the attacks in Brussels, stepping up police presence in high-profile locations and airports.
New York Republican Congressman Peter King is joining us live. He's a member of the Homeland Security Committee and the Select Committee on Intelligence.
Congressman, thank you for joining us.
REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: You are welcome.
BLITZER: First of all, I assume you are being briefed on what happened in Belgium today. What can you share with us?
KING: We have been gotten formal briefings because it is still being put together. Let's face it, the general consensus was this is ISIS, as we know. I think the sophistication of the attack has impressed or surprised people in that it was, again, a series of attacks. It was coordinated and the secondary targets and explosions. This was a sophisticated operation. What has to be concerning as far as Europe is concerned, is that they were very aware that an attack could be coming. There was extra security. They were doing extra surveillance and still an attack of this magnitude was able to be carried out. That is very concerning, certainly for Belgium and other countries in Europe who do not have the same level of counterterrorism that we have in the United States or, for that matter, the British.
BLITZER: I know security is beefed up. Today is already an abnormally high level. Various places in New York, for example, the airports, Penn Station, as well as here in Washington, it is being beefed up at the airports. You can see various major cities across the United States. Is this done out of what they call an abundance of caution or, as far as you know, Congressman, are there specific threats against these high-profile targets in the United States?
KING: Wolf, my understanding is there are no specific threats against the United States right now. However, we have to assume the United States is always being targeted. Certainly, in New York City, as Commissioner Kelly and Commissioner Bratton always assume, whenever there is an attack, New York City could be next, because we have been attacked or attempted to be attacked so many times. So even though there is no indication right now of an attack, it could still happen. That's why you do see increased level of security all around, particularly -- one could be a coordinated attack from al-Qaeda.
What we need is more surveillance, more surveillance out of the communities to stop these attacks before they begin, we can stop them before the explosives are put together and coming to the airport, or coming to the landmark site. Surveil lance is what is essential. And especially since more and more it is difficult for us to intercept phone calls, understand they are using burner phones in Europe now and it makes it difficult to intercept phone messages. So you need human intelligence. You need people on the ground, in the communities to find out what is happening to head off the attacks before they begin.
[13:45:29] BLITZER: I have been told -- this is from our reporting going on at the Belgium airport, the Brussels airport today -- the attacks occurred outside of the security perimeter before they went through security, what we would call TSA security here in the United States. It was when they walk in to the terminal, getting ready to check in their bags. A big crowd at the counter. As you know from your travels an the world and as I know from my travels, whether in Europe, Asia or the Middle East, very often they have a layer of security outside of the terminal before you go through another layer of security going towards the gates, for example, at those terminals. Is it time to rethink here in the United States putting in a new level of security outside of the airport, outside of the main building, before you go through security to head towards the gates?
KING: We would. How that would be done, I'm not sure. I have been concerned for a long time about the large lines you see of people waiting to go through security. Somebody walks into the middle of that crowd, as a suicide bomber, it's the same as killing a few hundred people on the plane itself. It's such a large gathering of people there and such a vulnerable target. Certainly true on trains and subways. The extra layer of security could help. What the cost would be and how it would be done, would you be stopping people, how would you know who to stop and who not to. It is the magnetometers and going through people's pockets and all that, could you do that twice? Again, European countries sometimes don't have the same constitutional restrictions that we do here in the country.
Again, Wolf, if I go back to it we have to have more surveillance in the communities themselves, the community where the threat is coming from. In this case, the Muslim community. So we can intercept and find out early before the attackers actually begun.
BLITZER: Peter King, of the Homeland Security and Intelligence Committees, thank you for joining us.
KING: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Coming up, more on the breaking news, the terror attacks in Belgium, killing at least 30 people, injuring more than 200 at a metro station as well as the main airport in Brussels. Should the intelligence community be worried about airports as soft targets? We will have more on that when we come back.
These are pictures coming in from Brussels right now.
[13:52:14] BLITZER: Once again, we're following the breaking news, the terror attacks in Belgium. The city of Brussels now on a very high state of alert after multiple attacks earlier today. Police have released security camera video from the city's main airport where two bombs went off at the check-in area before you go through security to go to the gates. They say they're looking for the man in white -- take a look at the right part of your screen -- in connection with the attack. Investigators are operating under the assumption that the other two suspects, in black, that they are dead. About an hour later, after the bomb went off at the airport, there was another bombing at a very busy subway station. At least 30 people were killed. More than 23 were injured. ISIS has publicly claimed responsibility.
Here in the United States, so far, today, a handful of airports, they have stepped up security, including Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Boston, Atlanta and, of course, right here in Washington.
Pamela Brown is here. Kimberly Dozier is here, our CNN global affairs analyst; and Jane Harman, director of the Wilson Center in Washington, a former U.S. congresswoman.
Pamela, first of all, the picture that they released, they're looking carefully at this one suspect who is sort of dressed in that white jacket.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Exactly. We see the three men here. These are who officials in Belgium believe were behind the attack there this morning. If you notice the two men in black, both of them are wearing one glove on their left hand. And right now, officials are analyzing this and working theory is they were wearing that one glove to conceal a detonator. It's believed these two men were killed in the blasts and the man in white perhaps was the one that left the suitcase bomb there and he is still at large, so there's an active investigation under way. We know the FBI was given this surveillance picture, video. What U.S. authorities are trying to do, see if these are people on their radar, and ensure there are no copycat attacks in the United States -- Wolf?
BLITZER: We've just been told by the federal prosecutor in Belgium, Kimberly -- and you were just at that airport -- that the two men dressed in black on the other part, the left part of the screen, they were -- they have now been identified as the suicide bombers. They were going through. The man with the lighter jacket, he's apparently still at large, he's a suspect. They're actively searching for the man with the white jacket.
But when you were there, you were there yesterday, was that right?
KIMBERLY DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Yesterday morning. I didn't notice any security in that area as I got out of the taxi and went to the ticket counter. So to the point that it is a soft target, absolutely. Now, throughout the weekend, if you walked around the city of Brussels, there was a very high state of alert. I was at the conference German marshal forum full of U.S. and European officials saying they'd been told by their security teams to brace for possible retaliatory attacks over the arrest of Salah Abdeslam in Molenbeek. So they knew that something was going -- could happen. The Belgium foreign minister said they had found Salah had a larger network than expected and they thought he was planning follow-up attacks. [13:55:32] BLITZER: Jane, you've been doing works studying security
at airports, what needs to be done -- I don't know what could have been done at Brussels at the international airport. Apparently, they walked in before they went through security. They saw a big crowd at a baggage counter. They blew themselves up, killed a lot of people.
JANE HARMAN, DIRECTOR, WOODROW WILSON CENTER & FORMER CONGRESSWOMAN: Couple of comments. I was scheduled to be at the same conference on a panel on terrorism and, for unrelated reasons, I canceled at the last minute.
BLITZER: This conference in Belgium.
HARMAN: But any of us, any of us could be at any of these places.
And our hearts have to go out to the people who were killed and their families.
On this, airports are still soft targets, as hard as we tried. Airplanes are much harder. Airplanes have been the historic focus of al Qaeda and related groups, bombs on airlines. We should still assume they are an intended target. Airports, both at the front of the airport where you check in for security, and at the back of airport where people are inadequately scrutinized can put soda can bombs on planes -- we just saw that movie in the Sinai -- are soft. And have to be hardened.
You asked someone else, Wolf, Peter King, a few minutes ago, about having checkpoints ahead of entering an airport. That's certainly what happened at Ben Gurion in Israel. Could this guy with the luggage cart been stopped? The others? Maybe so, if there had been sniffer dogs. Although a lot of these explosives are now concealed in plastic. So, yes, we have to harden airports because they're a logical place to get a lot of people.
BLITZER: You wanted to add something?
DOZIER: Well, the scary thing is that the Belgian authorities knew something was coming ever since the Paris attacks four months ago. They've been trying to rebuild their intelligence network and penetrate Molenbeek where something like 200 foreign fighters are estimated to have come back from Syria and started cells. But they're trying to build intelligence networks under a crisis. And U.S. and European officials I spoke to said they're doing their best, but they're small, they're overtaxed with this job, and that just leaves the opportunity for the terrorists.
BLITZER: Pamela, as you know, U.S. counterterrorism authorities, intelligence, law enforcement, they're worried that not enough is being done, for example, like a place like Belgium.
BROWN: Absolutely, because of the porous borders. That's been a concern from day one. But in the wake of the Paris attack, U.S. officials had intelligence that was shared with European officials at the same network believed to be behind the Paris attacks was planning further attacks, and so what they're looking at now is that is the case here in the wake of the Salah Abdeslam arrest and I've been asking, do they think this is retaliation for his arrest, Wolf, and the working theory is these plans were already hatched, already in the works, but they accelerated the attacks today in the wake of the arrest.
BLITZER: Jane, go ahead.
HARMAN: Belgium has been a weak link. The mayor of Brussels had a lot of information, names, didn't share it with other because she didn't think she should do that. It's a small country with poor resources. It's the headquarters of the E.U., so it's --
BLITZER: Headquarters of NATO, too.
HARMAN: Yes, and NATO. So it's the heart of Europe. Europe is now a battlefield. I'm assuming there's strategic depth. They have great operational security. So they're not communicating in ways that we easily can intercept. There may be plots planned already in different parts of Europe, not just in -- we shouldn't just assume in Belgium and France.
BLITZER: What do you think of Donald Trump's recommendation this is a time to reduce military commitments to NATO?
HARMAN: I think it's a bad idea. I heard Hillary Clinton say the same thing. NATO has to be modernized for future threats not just present and past threats --
BLITZER: Why doesn't NATO get involved as an organization in trying to destroy ISIS?
DOZIER: I did ask NATO officials about that at this conference. And they said they had to wait for a group decision from all their political masters.
BLITZER: What do they mean?
DOZIER: All those different countries or members of NATO have to decide --
BLITZER: They never got involved in Afghanistan, as an organization, never got involved in Iraq. But a lot of people are saying that's why NATO exists to try to destroy an organization like this, but they're so of waiting.
HARMAN: Europe is a target clearly. Europe is a battlefield now for the ISIS-trained foreign fighters who are coming back where they came from and probably already have plots under way.
BLITZER: All right, we have to run, unfortunately. But we'll stay on top of this story.
Stay with CNN throughout the day and night for all the late-breaking developments.
I'll be back, 5:00 p.m. eastern, in "The Situation Room."
Our breaking news coverage continues right now.